Grateful Dead

Blair's Golden Road Blog - Mixed Marriages?

By Blair Jackson

This summer, my lovely wife, Regan, and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary (thank you, thank you); a pretty decent accomplishment, I suppose, in this era of fractured families and sky-high divorce rates. You know how they say “opposites attract”? Well, I’ve never bought that for a second—or at least never sought out my own “opposite.” To the contrary, I think it is our convergence on so many of life’s issues that has allowed us to hit the three-decade milestone without breaking a sweat. We really do agree about most things—our tastes are quite similar in almost everything, from movies to food to colors we like. And, of course, it also includes our mutual love of the Grateful Dead.

Regan wasn’t a Dead Head when we met in the late ’70s. She went to her first show with me at the Warfield in 1980 (10/3/80, if you must know), 10 years after I’d been seeing the band. She had three Warfield shows under her belt by the time we got married in July 1981, but then in September of that year the Dead played the first of their modern series at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley. We went to all three shows, and after that she was completely hooked. We did all five New Year’s concerts at the Oakland Auditorium (the first night, 12/26 was even her birthday) and had the best time. The next year the band added Ventura and Frost to their regular schedule; by the following year we took our first out of state road trip to Eugene and Boise, came home and worked for a week at our jobs, then went to Santa Fe for one of the most magical weekends either of us had ever experienced. We’ve been traveling down The Golden Road ever since, committed to following this strange muse and having a great time just about every step of the way.

I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if my significant other had not been a Dead Head. And through the years I’ve heard more than a few horror stories from folks who are in what we jokingly call “mixed marriages” (whether they’re married or not). Now, traditionally this term has been used to apply to black-white, Jew-gentile, etc. couplings, but the Dead Head-non-Head pairing can definitely cause as much friction (though not as much from parents). Argument flash-points were numerous: “Why do you have to go see all those shows?” “That tape wall is ugly; why can’t we just put a bookcase there?” “Can’t we listen to something else in the car for a change?” “Don’t ask me to come to the hospital when you eat a PCP-laced veggie burrito outside a show!” “Can’t you hear how bad those harmonies are?” “You are not going to Frost Amphitheatre on Mother’s Day; we’re going to my mom’s for brunch!” “I am not looking at a Dancing Bear tattoo for the rest of my life!” “You sent away for more tickets? That’s why we’re broke!” “Red Rocks is not a vacation; Acapulco is a vacation.” “Do you have any idea how silly you look in that tie-dye shirt?” And on and on.

At some point, there’s usually a grudging agreement to go to a show and see what all the fuss is about. A few have even been converted this way. But often it’s a disaster: “I thought there weren’t any more hippies!” “That guy spinning around smacked me in the back!” “All this endless noodling is so boring!” “That’s only intermission? Can we leave now?” “How can you do this night after night?” “What’s the matter with these people?” “Why can’t I talk? What is ‘Dark Star’ anyway?” “Go buy me a beer; I’m not going out there!” I had one female buddy whose non-DH boyfriend wore a gas mask to a show to protect himself from all the smoke! About the best-case scenario was when the offended party would fall asleep at the break or during “drums,” temporarily liberating the poor Dead Head in the couple. But people have had to leave hot shows to save a relationship, and there are certainly many who have broken up over one partner’s fanaticism.

Of course I’m aware that many, many people did (and do) succeed in their mixed relationships. But it often takes quite a bit of work and lots of accommodation on both sides.

What has your experience been? Is the theme song of your romantic history in the Dead scene “They Love Each Other” or “Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad”? Tell us your nightmare stories and what “the last straw” was before the breakup, or tell us how you’ve succeeded in making it work!


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marye's picture
Joined: May 26 2007
this isn't so much a war story

though I still don't remember how I found my car in Park City...

but as surreal moments go, there was the interlude on Highway 5 en route to Eugene in '82. Traffic suddenly slowed to a crawl in the middle of nowhere in rural Oregon, because, it turned out, there was a pony who'd somehow gotten loose from a trailer. And about a dozen helpful folks in tie-dye running around the highway, having abandoned their vehicles by the roadside, trying to wrangle the terrified critter to safety as he ran around the freeway.

Sort of heartwarming instant community, and yet, whether any of the dramatis personae actually had any horse skills I cannot say, and to this day I just hope it all turned out well...

Joined: Jun 6 2007
These are great stories!

Except it's making me nervous just readin' 'em! Keep 'em comin'! Multiple entries encouraged...

gratefaldean's picture
Joined: Jun 22 2007
9/6/80 Lewiston Fairgrounds

Heading home from the show on some godforsaken stretch of back road, we were driving along in very high spirits when suddenly...thump! thump! thump! Flat tire. We all rolled out of the car with a fair-sized cloud of smoke in our wake, and proceeded to find the jack and the spare and started to put the stuff together in the dark. About halfway through this less-than-efficient process, a car pulls up behind us. Blue light comes on...ok flat tire, and now we're gonna get busted as well!

But no, the cop was just being helpful, didn't do anything but keep his lights on us so that we could see what we were doing. Tire changed, he, then we, were on our way, albeit adrenalized to the max.

Got back to our town, my buddy is searching for the bag that had us so paranoid. Not in anyone's pockets, we tore apart the car looking for it, including under the flat tire in the trunk. Not there, not anywhere, gone.

A week later, broad daylight, tooling down the same godforsaken stretch of road, my buddy pulls over. He hadn't said anything, and the rest of us were all looking at each other wondering WTF! "This is the place." He got out of the car, walked up and down the side of the road for about 30 seconds, bent over and picked something up.

Yup, MIA baggy found...

Mount Airy? In my current neck of the woods...

lamagonzo (not verified)
Meadowlands 85

Our two buds had tickets but we had none, We looked in vain to buy a "cost" ticket but found none, On a last minute hunch We cozied up to the band's will-call where they had left the list face-up next to transparent window. I picked a name not crossed off the list and told my friend. Who proceeded to pull-off the greatest arrogant "Whaddaya mean I don't have an ID, I'm the guy, give me my tickets and passes. The reply was "I guess you're him" and out slid two ticket with back stage passes.

This was the show they played a sweet Comes A Time and I'll never forget how much fun we had walking back and forth between the backstage area and the crowd. Some had it easy, some had it hard -- we kind of eased our way in. The greatest show of our lives..

Joined: Nov 22 2010
war stories


Here's a story from the same Red Rocks 1985 run. A group of four of us flew from D.C. to Houston, and rented a car. Our plan was to do the Oklahoma City and Kansas City shows, then Red Rocks. The only problem is that we didn't have tickets to the sold out RR shows. We stopped at a rest area to crash for a few hours somewhere in the plains of Kansas, and there were hundreds of Heads sprawled out all over the parking lot and lawn in the middle of the night. Someone told us that they had heard that additional RR tickets would be placed on sale at the Denver area ticket outlet the next morning at 10:00am. We didn't know whether to believe them or not, but we took it on faith. This was before laptaps and smart phones connected to the internet, after all. We showed up at a sporting goods store in Denver that had a ticket outlet that next morning and there were two or three other Heads doing the same thing. Sure enough, they opened up at 10, checked their computer, and sold us tickets for all three shows!!!! We felt extremely grateful, as there were many hundreds of ticketless souls wandering the Red Rocks parking lots all three days.

uponscrutiny's picture
Joined: Jan 18 2010
saratoga 83

When my buddies and I pulled into the parking lot of the Holiday Inn on that fine June day we noticed a semi in the parking lot with the initials G.D. on the door. Hmm now who could that be?
We had reserved the presidential suite a month in advance, but when we checked in we were told that we could'nt have that room as it was reserved for "the band". Bummer.
After settling into our reassigned room I along with one of mys buds hopped on the elevator to check out the scene at the hotel. When the doors opened I heard someone say to my friend "in or out man" and the next thing I know Jerry walks into the elevator along with Brent and a hot babe. Jerry was not in a good mood at all and grumbled something at my buddy who was kind of in shock at this point. Jerry then stood right next to me and back up the elevator we went. He grumbled once again at my buddy at which point I quipped "Jerry what the @#%*". Dead silence for the remainder of the ride back up. We exited the elevator and just looked at each other in disbelief. Not a good start to say the least.
I decided to use the rear elevator for my next trip down only to find Billy Kreutzman on that one poking at the ceiling tiles. I said hello and so did he. Not bad.
When it came time to go to the show I used the rear elevator once again and when I exited the hotel, there was Bobby putting his shiny metal guitar case in the trunk of a cadillac limo. I proceeded to walk around to the front of the hotel and there was this mini-van parked out front with a bunch of curious deadheads swarming around it. The van remained there while the rest of the band got in their limos out back.
Had a good time at the show and when they started the encore we decided to get a jump on the traffic and headed to the car. It took us about ten minutes to get out of our parking spot because we were so boxed in.
We arrived back at the hotel, parked the car and headed inside. We enter the lobby and get to the "elevator" at the same exact time that Jerry, Bobby and the hotel manager did. YIKES! {did'nt know that there was a double encore that night) We all enter the elevator and my other buddy said hello to Jerry and told him that it was a great show at which point Jerry snapped back "yeah well I thought it sucked". Bobby then looked at me and my med-fly t-shirt and said that we should have stayed at the campgrounds that the band had arranged for the fans. We just stared each other down for the remainder of the ride. Upon exiting, the friend who complimented Jerry wished him and Booby a good night at which point Jerry said "in a pigs ear".
This is an absolutely true account of what took place that day. I just dismissed it as a bad day for ol' Jerry but my friends were not so forgiving as I was. Can't say that I blame them seeing that they were the ones being scolded by their idol. I at least snapped back at Jerry initially but kept my mouth shut during the second encounter. I continued to follow the boys for the rest of their musical journey and saw many good shows in the years to come. My friends however pretty much exited "the bus" with their tails between their legs.
In retrospect it was the beginning of a tough road for Jerry and the demons that would plague his health in the not to distant future.
There was one fellow head on the elevator during the first encounter by the way. Maybe he can vouch for me. A truly strange experience.
A few months later a friend of mine who was a d-jay at a college radio station called and invited me and a friend over to the studio to sit in on a Bob Weir interview. Bobby and the Midnites were playing the Rose Room that night. At one point during the interview Bobby looked right at me and again mentioned those darn campgrounds.
Blair does that qualify as a war story?

Joined: Aug 27 2008

9/25/81, Stabler Arena, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA
This show is what I call my "bedroom" show, because it's in my hometown. This seemed too simple.
But getting there was a disaster of sorts. Long before we got to the arena, my tour family got a little *buzzed* to say the least before we drove to the show. While driving to the show, the car broke down in the middle of a major traffic artery making a left hand turn crossing traffic, it was dead, no power, no nothing, but more than enough gas in the tank. We had a traffic light about to turn green, quick as wink we got out of the car and pushed it to safety across 3 lanes of traffic. The car would not start, we checked every thing, but to no avail. We were bummed and furious, to say the least, so we waited about an hour (or so it seemed) until we tried again. In the meantime several folks going to the show asked if we wanted a ride, and we turned their offers down, as it meant that our party of 4 had to abandon the car, in a not too safe of an area.
About 15 minutes before the show was about to begin, BINGO! the car started and we were ecstatic and just about raced to the Stabler parking lot and parked the car. We got into the arena after missing the Minglwood opener and most of FOTD. But I like this show.

After the show, the car worked fine, and getting from the parking lot thru the back roads to PA Route 378 was not too bad considering the traffic congestion. But on 378, we were bumped in the back of the car with some damage to one of the real lights by a speeder in a pick-up truck who was under the influence of alcohol and could care less about the traffic coming out of the GD concert. Well, we exchanged info, and went on our way. About 10 minutes later we were stopped by a city policeman who told us about our tail light damamge, and proceded to give Jim, the car owner & driver a ticket.
Sour grapes for this event, but that was probably the only major problem I ever had attending Dead shows. Just good karma, I guess. It was 30 years ago, and my memory is a bit hazy. But I still love this show for the music.
A future Road Trips release, I hope.

Joined: Jun 4 2007
feel free to delete this and the previous two posts.

Glitch of some type...

Joined: Jun 4 2007
Oh man....

You've just opened a serious floodgate with this topic. I'll be back with some doozies.

Joined: Jun 4 2007
Oh man....

You've just opened a serious floodgate with this topic. I'll be back with some doozies.


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